Jim Moore, the owner of Ambiance, greets us at his latest outlet in G Village with his warm, affable charm and graciously offers us a spot of tea. As it is being prepared, we stroll around the 4,600 sq. ft. shop artfully dotted with statues, furniture, ceramic, jewellery and curios. We covet their statuesque larger-than-life cupboards, quaint Chinese wedding cabinets, immensely popular Buddha figurines, and an array of artisan soaps and candles. Specialising in antique and contemporary Oriental furniture, Jim’s selected pieces are purchased and refurbished in the north of China and Mongolia. The harsh weather conditions season the furniture making it able to withstand varying degrees of climates for where the pieces will eventually call home.
Tea is ready and we are led to a prettily set-up table, no doubt adorned by pieces from his personal collection. Joining us is Sophie Buddell, an interior designer whose projects include the Khoo Family Mansion in Bukit Gasing where she helped transform a thirty-year-old family home into a more uniformed, comfortable yet stylish utilitarian abode that caters to all the four generations living under that roof. The home was featured on ‘Extreme Homes : Luxury Asia’, a television series.
Having been here for about twenty years, Jim recalls the time when home decor was not a hot topic in Malaysia with only a few specialists like Janine, Xtra Silk Road and Purser’s Choice: “To source a simple glass vase the choices were far greater in Singapore.”
A huge number of international brands have since set up in Malaysia and made an impactful difference in the field of home decor. People are now able to access and procure beautiful, stylish, contemporary items at a much more affordable price. Jim quips, “Even Laura Ashley is owned by a Malaysian now!”
Technology has certainly impacted the way people curate their home living. Jim notes, “We entered the new millennium on the twin waves of globalisation and digitalisation exposing us to a whole world of new trends. People more and more want something that is unique, expressing their own and their family’s character.” Pinterest, Airbnb and Facebook have opened up the world in a way that the tastes and influences are now no longer only cultural. Sophie has had clients come to her with Instagram pictures, asking for those looks to be recreated in their homes.
Jim gives his two cents on what people look for when selecting a piece of furniture. “Colour has made a return. We have gone through the pastels of the sixties, psychedelic seventies and greys of the nineties. People now want a pop of colour. Blue furniture is very popular right now, so are greens and neutrals,” he explains.
There is little rhyme or reason in the appeal of certain designs and colour schemes to a specific clientele, but in general there seems to be a move towards soft greys, light greens, blues and natural wood finishes but with at least one bold statement piece, a memory of a time, moment or experience. The trend, Jim notes, is however slowly changing with Malaysians. “People want new with some old in it. Old things have a story, they have more character. Heritage will be appreciated more and more.” A selection of a piece factors in sentiment, colour, the newness and its exoticness. People are inspired by the picturesque mystical lands of Angkor, Bali, Borobudur, even Scotland. Antique Chinese furniture are free of hinges and brackets, a testament of unique craftsmanship. Jim encourages that people get “handsy” with their furniture. To him, texture, weight, and close inspection are important when furniture shopping.
Jim and Sophie agree that the largest changes in the way homes are utilised will be in the kitchen, dining and family rooms. The creation of the ‘family room’ and expanded open living means that boundaries between these spaces in the house are getting blurred with homogeneity in flooring styles. The family concept of integrating everyone and all their needs into a larger, singular living space will be more common. “You will see more floor living, bean bag living…The important thing is to always look into the needs of the family,” Sophie adds.
Home entertainment will also take on a life of its own as more and more people are eager to show off their homes. Kitchen islands are moving out from kitchen spaces and into the integrated entertainment areas. Outdoor cooking, especially barbeques, will be more popular, especially with the advent of no-smoking ban in public places and with the men folk being more involved in cooking.
People are also gearing into clean living and changing the way they interact with their community and the surrounding environment. Recycling, the recent implementation of trash separation, running and bicycling are further examples of how people today are embracing healthier and sustainable lifestyles. Upcycling is a novel way of injecting new life into an object that holds special sentiment. The act of refurbishing a piece and instilling more value in it is the essence of this process. In this way, people do not necessarily need to discard memorabilia
which are worn, rickety or faded. One of Sophie’s clients had an impressive amount of antique furniture stashed away in a room, collecting dust. “We took all those mismatched pieces and gave it a good old spray of uniformed colour. Once that was done, we were able to incorporate those beloved pieces into their living space seamlessly.”
We ask Sophie on what her take is on mass-market DIY furniture hubs such as IKEA. “I personally have pieces from them. IKEA is good for basics, especially their bathroom range and photo frames. The trick is to blend your selection with all your other furnishings for an overall flow.”
Commercially, the use of spaces may be dramatically different in years to come as people yearn to see something more unique. Jim foresees that shopping malls in the future may increase art venues, galleries and open performance spaces rather than remain solely for their initial purpose. Many churches around the world have closed and been converted to residential and commercial use while preserving their original spectacular architecture, Jim reminds us. The way we live and the nature of a building’s purpose may be even more skewed in the future.
Explore Ambiance’s collection of antique and contemporary oriental furniture in its outlet located on the First Floor of G Village, Jalan Desa Pandan.